I was driving through rural South Dakota with my son the other day and a radio ad for a local Internet provider came on. In the background, under the voiceover, was the screeching sound of a modem handshake, meant to invoke the idea of logging onto the Internet.
I have no doubt that this rural provider still had quite a few dial-up customers, but son turned to me and said, “What’s that annoying noise you always hear when they talk about the Internet?”
He’s 12. He knows nothing but broadband.
With this, I was confronted by the fact that here we have a noise which technology has rendered obsolete: a modem handshake. It’s rapidly disappearing from the world, and younger people have no idea what it means so any implicit meaning it’s supposed to carry is missing.
Joe mentioned another one to me when I brought this up: the sound of the needle on a record player dragging across the surface (see the Gay Chicken scene from “Scrubs”). Those of us older than, say, 25 take this for granted, but there’s a whole generation of kids for whom it’s totally meaningless.